Like most of the LGBTQ community and our friends today, I’m furious at President Trump’s policy-via-tweet ban on transgender people serving in the military. I’m also worried about the children of currently serving trans people, who may soon see their family incomes plummet or disappear if their parent(s) are kicked out of the service.
This one’s personal for me, as I have the privilege of knowing an active duty officer who is trans and his family. Their story is theirs to tell, so I won’t share it here. Suffice to say he is one of the most patriotic people I have known, with years of service to our country, and a spouse who has given much time and effort to the community of military families. I also know several other trans parents who have served but are no longer in the military.
Even if this isn’t personal for you, though, I hope you are still outraged:
Despite the President’s concern about the “tremendous medical costs” of letting trans people serve, several studies, including one by RAND that was cited by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter last year and Former Chair of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen in a prescient piece yesterday, show a cost of no more than $8.4 million, which equals only 0.13 percent of total military healthcare expenditures. Consider that the military spends 10 times this amount on erectile dysfunction medications.
Trans people comprise approximately 15,500 active duty, reserve, and National Guard troops, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. Kicking them out would put a strain not only on them and their families, but also on their units. Suddenly removing that many troops (1,300 to 6,600 of whom are active duty, according to RAND) harms our military readiness.
President Trump announced this, not with an official White House document, but via Twitter, and added salt to the wound by doing so on the anniversary of President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order desegregating the armed services. It’s unclear if his tweet is even binding; Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a Navy veteran, issued a statement, saying in part:
The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.
The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving.
This is far from a done deal, folks—and the trans service members I’ve had the privilege to meet are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know.
If you’d like to get to know some trans service members and veterans yourself, here are a few who have shared their stories online:
- Kristin Beck, a former member of the Navy’s prestigious SEAL Team 6
- Tomi Kay, former Army Specialist and weapons technician
- Ken Ochoa, Army Drill Sergeant
- Logan Ireland, a Senior Airman in the Air Force who is married to trans Army Corporal Laila Villanueva. The two were profiled in the short, Emmy-nominated film “Transgender, at War and in Love.”
- The several service members profiled in this trailer for the documentary TransMilitary, from the filmmakers behind the above short.
What can we do in the face of the President’s tweets?
- If you are a trans person in the military and need help, contact Lambda Legal and/or the ACLU.
- If you are not trans, reach out to friends and family who are and let them know you are thinking of them today. Ask how you can best support them, personally or with wider activism.
- Support Lambda, the ACLU, and the many other organizations fighting this ban, including all of the big, broad national LGBTQ organizations as well as the American Military Partner Association, OutServe, SPART*A, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Transgender Law Center.
- Call the White House.
- Write or call your members of Congress and tell them to oppose a ban on trans service.
- Keep your eyes out for other specific actions from the above organizations in the days to come.